Everything Happens…

I abhor platitudes. I try not to use them and especially not to persons feeling grief. They’re intended to comfort, I understand that, but I also know how useless they are to the people on the receiving end of them. When my mother died, I had them thrown at me from all angles and the anger I felt was eclipsed only by my shock and grief. I understand the foundation of them. I get that people really want to believe they are true because in some ways, it helps them to accept their circumstances. But oddly, it’s for those reasons that they irritate me so much.

Chief among the cliches is “Everything happens for a reason”. Never have I ever heard something that grinds my gears as much as this.This one gets thrown around quite a bit and especially when something particularly awful happens; a lost job, a broken relationship or the death of a loved one is a guaranteed situation for someone to hug you gently while murmuring this comfortingly to you. But for the grace of the Creator, I have managed not to bite someone in the throat as they croon this in my ear. In my opinion, this one actually serves a particularly selfish purpose. There seem to be a lot of persons who believe that there’s an unseen and powerful force out there that is allowing and even orchestrating tragedies with the sole purpose of teaching a lesson and it confounds my spirit why anyone would find relief in this. It brings me absolutely no comfort to think that tragedy is somehow specifically intended to teach a lesson and as I’ve amassed experiences, I’ve come to see this statement for what it really is.

Firstly, I think it’s a cop out. It’s an absolution of responsibility. If you tell someone that something has been allowed to happen for a reason, it gives the impression that no-one had any control over it and there’s nothing that could have been done to alter the course. Excuse me, but that’s bullshit. The fabric of our lives is woven with the choices that we make. But, it’s not just our choices either. Every decision that a person makes creates a ripple in existence as a whole and has an impact, directly or indirectly, on at least one (other) person. The things we say and do affect us, the person(s) to whom we say them and the choices that are made going forward. That person’s choices now affect others and on and on it goes… To say that something is inevitable is to say that we do not have control over the choices we make and the things that we do whether they affect us or others. That’s rubbish. Persons will find themselves in a situation and it can be obvious that another course of action could have created a different outcome but they will refuse to acknowledge that they could have done something differently. A decision that was made by someone at sometime is currently acting on our lives. This is not a responsibility to be taken lightly.

In my opinion, to acknowledge that we have so much power over what is, has been and can be takes an incredible strength of will and character. I find that a lot of persons who talk about predestination are scared. Acceptance of the inevitable supports a level of cowardice that breeds inaction because it convinces them that they don’t have to do anything. They don’t have to change their lives. They don’t have to take a stand against anything. They don’t have to put effort into making things happen. Because whatever is happening is going to happen anyway and there’s therefore no need to get involved and run the risk of being inconvenienced or hurt. Resistance is futile and likely dangerous. I see it in the workplace, in families and in communities. It happens on a local scale and it happens on a global one. No matter how obvious it is that a different decision could have manifested another possibly more favourable outcome, too many persons won’t acknowledge that it was fear that brought them to the point where they are. Fear of change. Fear of rocking the boat. Fear of standing up to someone in authority. Fear of putting up resistance. And so, too often, as they look at every aspect of a situation except the parts that they could have impacted by doing something else or even something at all, they comfort themselves by saying that there must be a reason why things are as they are…

And yes, it does bring comfort to a lot of people. If you put on your blinders and wrap yourself in denial, if you ignore the things you could have done and refuse to take responsibility for not doing them, of course you can convince yourself that everything is A-OK and there was no way this could have unfolded any other way… Comfort though, is a subjective emotion and state. A lot of persons exist restfully in a state of denial. And so, taking comfort in inevitability helps some people to more willingly accept their circumstances and suppresses any desire they may have to challenge authority, question their situation and create, what some may view, as chaos. Religion in particular often glorifies predestination, all but demands an acceptance of the inevitable and discourages questioning the authority of whatever deity it acknowledges by telling followers that they will find comfort here and in the afterlife by simply acquiescing to the will of a supreme being. Having studied several religious texts, I’m not inclined to accept that at all.

What I do believe in, is free will. I believe that the choices we make are significant and have varying degrees of impact on everything that ripples out from them. I don’t believe that everything happens for a reason; I believe that things simply happen. What’s worse, things happen to people who sometimes do not have the capacity or exist in the circumstances that allow them to learn or recover. For those people, a negative occurrence is tantamount to a line of cards being tipped over. One thing simply leads to another and another and another until they reach a point of no recovery. How do you tell that person that all that is happening for a reason when there is no end in sight? When there may in fact be something that someone else, that you, can do to change the course of events, instead of preaching inevitability and some grand scheme of things to them? Things happen as a result of life unfolding, people doing things and life evolving as these things occur. I believe that we can however, make sense and make something out of everything that happens. By honestly examining a situation, we can learn lessons and make decisions that can create improvements in whatever aspect of our life was affected. We can reach out to someone, direct them to assistance rather than acceptance. We can adjust our sails or change course. Or, we can just drift along and end up wherever…

My mother’s death was sudden and likely avoidable. It changed a lot of things for me. I chose to use the grief as an impetus to make some scary and necessary changes in my life. Yes, it shocked me into putting a lot of things into perspective. But the decisions I made could have still been different. I could have been in a completely different place than I am now had I chosen to view her death, and in truth, her life, from another angle. We can all take a bad situation and spin it into something positive for ourselves and/or for others. We can, at intervals, examine our lives and the things that happen to us and determine how we can use them to manifest positivity. Or, we can do nothing and keep going. We can absolutely allow life to happen around us. At the end of the day, things happen… It’s up to us what we do after…

3 thoughts on “Everything Happens…

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